By Travis Pike
As a student paying for a service, you have a right to expect your firearms trainer to provide a few things. Yes, they should provide you with quality training, but since we do not have an objective, reliable method of rating firearm instructors, there are a few things you should look into. Here are a few things every good trainer should have outside of a certification from the NRA, Tactical Response, Gun Site or whoever. If you want to be a firearms trainer I suggest keeping a few of these things in mind . . .
A lot of trainers start an LLC thinking it will protect them from any kind of lawsuit. It may do that, but it doesn’t protect your students. When I am training students I am taking their safety into my hands, and if I make a mistake I need to have good liability insurance for them, not so much for me. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor if they have insurance before signing up, I make it a part of my advertising.
A Medical Kit and an Injury plan
Before I start any class I go over a few basic admin notes, where the bathrooms are, where’s the appropriate smoke break area, where the trash cans are, and our injury plan. I do this for two reasons; first to reinforce that guns are dangerous and second so people know what to do. I ask if anyone has any medical training, nurse, doctor, EMT. If so, I ask if they would mind aiding in any injury that may occur. I also have limited medical training in basic things like CPR, shock treatment, how to apply tourniquets, stop bleeding, etc.
I show my students my range medical kit, and let them know where it’s located, in case I’m the one who gets hurt. I also ask for a volunteer who’s job is to call 911 in the event of an emergency, while the patient is being treated.
The Ability to Learn
Anyone who thinks their way is the only one possible way to do something, and is universal among all shooters is not fit to be a trainer. This person has stopped learning, and will soon be outdated, if they aren’t already. The biggest and only universal in gun handling is safety. If a student is shooting one-handed, from the hip, and hitting the bulls eye every time at 25 yards, I’m not trying to correct their form, I’m trying to learn from them.
However, if a student is doing something ‘odd’ and missing the target, I’ll ask them why do they do that odd thing that particular way. If they have a legitimate answer, i.e. something like, “my shoulder injury,” I try to keep that in mind and I find a way to get them on target. If they say, “I don’t know.” I suggest they try it another way.
A good trainer should also work to refine their skills in the discipline they are teaching. This doesn’t just mean moving vertically towards advanced courses, but laterally. Take a class in what you already teach, you’ll be surprised what you can learn from how a more experienced instructor teaches. For example, I sat in during a fellow local trainer’s class and learned how he used analogies anyone could understand to explain how to handle a firearm. He associated how to shoot with everyday activities.
Be adaptable to your students
A firearms instructor should adapt to his students, not force students to adapt to the trainer. What I mean by this is as a trainer, I never tell someone their gun is terrible, their holster won’t work, etc. Unless it’s a safety concern, of course. The easiest way to define this is don’t be a brand or caliber fanboy.
I can caution someone, and explain logically why a Walther P22 isn’t the best option for self defense (.22 LR being nowhere near as reliable as a centerfire cartridge). But if that’s what they are going to carry, I have an obligation to teach them how to operate it effectively and safely, regardless of my personal feelings.
I never tell a student their equipment and method are wrong, I simply suggest something that may work better for them, and tell them why that is. I don’t say things like, “Get a GLOCK cause I carry a GLOCK and GLOCK is the best everz.”
A lot of new shooters who do not own a gun, ask what gun they should buy. I carry a P07, and I love it, but I’m not going to suggest that for the 100 lb. little old lady taking my class. I keep a variety of different modern firearms for students to handle and test, at a variety of different price points. I really like my S&W Performance Center, but it’s not a realistic expectation for everyone to go spend more than I’ll honestly tell my wife I spent on it.
A Cool Pair of Sunglasses
Rule Number 2, always looks cool. Duh.